“Occupied Territories” Is a Flawed and Biased Term – Alan Baker (JTA)
(dailyalert.org, Apr. 11, 2014)
When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie apologized for using the term “occupied territories” to refer to the West Bank, Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” ridiculed the apology, insisting that the phrase is “widely accepted” and accurate.
While the term is indeed widely used, that doesn’t make it accurate. Indeed, the term is legally, historically, and factually flawed. Determination that the territories are Palestinian or that they are occupied is based on incorrect and partisan readings of the factual situation and of the relevant international legal documentation.
The historic and legal rights of the Jewish people to this territory renders it unique, involving a basic indigenous Jewish presence since at least 1500 BCE, long before the arrival of Islam in the 7th century CE.
These rights have been acknowledged and encapsulated legally and historically in official, binding, and still valid international documents: the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the 1920 San Remo Declaration, the 1922 League of Nations Mandate, and the 1945 UN Charter.
Thus, by any objective criteria, the status of the territory is “disputed,” subject to an agreed-upon negotiation process between Israel and the Palestinians. Demands that Israel withdraw to the “1967 lines,” which are in effect the 1949 armistice demarcation lines, are equally flawed and misleading. Such demands attempt to prejudge an open negotiating issue.
Efforts to assign the territory to the Palestinians, prior to a successful conclusion of the negotiating process, or to deny the rights and status of Israel, demonstrate nothing more than political ignorance and bias.
The writer, former legal counsel to Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Israel’s ambassador to Canada, is director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.